Astros’ must-see TV through the years

In the early days of Astros’ baseball (the writer came here shortly after the move from Colt .45s to Astros), any TV appearance was must-see TV. Back in the ’60s, the Astros’ appearances on the TV were few and very far between. For a few years, their only appearance on local TV was Sunday road games or very occasional appearances on the Game of the Week, not due to their performance, but because the Astrodome was a perfect back up site for the main game in case rain came through.

Over time the TV coverage morphed into what we see these days with baseball on TV for every game of the season. So, during this time, the eyes of the fans were more choosy. They were not watching every game, and inside those games, they were not watching every inning or every at bat. So, the idea of “Must See” TV came about over time, even if it was unspoken.

  • In the early days of more TV coverage (and these days, my feeble brain does not remember exactly when that occurred, but I believe it was early to mid-’70s), Cesar Cedeno used to be my Must See Astro. With that Power-Speed combo, you were not sure if you were going to see a home run, a bunt single/ stolen base “double”, or a spectacular catch in the outfield.
  • Towards the late ’70s, this morphed over to a must-see pitcher, and that pitcher was J.R. Richard. He was such an imposing giant of a man with the killer combination of overwhelming fastball paired with a totally devastating slider. While the fans loved to watch his outings, the opponents would rather see just about anyone else on the mound.
  • The early ’80s brought the Astros’ first successful playoff run….and Nolan Ryan. The Ryan Express was must-see TV as you never knew what he might bring to the game, whether it was hitting a home run in his first start for the home team, taking over the lead in career strikeouts or throwing his record-breaking 5th no-hitter.
  • In the mid to late ’80’s the must-see Astro was pitcher Mike Scott as he at times was the most dominant pitcher in the game, winning the Cy Young and clinching the 1986 pennant with a no-hitter and coming within one start that never happened of leading the team to their first World Series. And those rumors of his split-finger having a little extra relish on it? Just rumors as far as we were concerned.
  • The ’90s were dominated by two Astros, who both at times were Must See TV. Whether it was seeing whether Craig Biggio could get out of the first without a hustle induced dirty uniform or watching Jeff Bagwell launch a moon shot with that unbelievably spread out batting stance, they both gave fans plenty of reasons to watch them play. Did we know they would end up being the Astros first real entrants in the Hall of Fame? We did not care as they both gave us something to love almost every game.
  • For the stretch run of the 1998 season, Randy Johnson, the Big Unit, was must-see TV all by himself. After the trade from Seattle, he won 10 of his 11 starts while compiling a microscopic 1.28 ERA and leading the team to their most wins (102) up to that time. World Series fever ran high, but they were cut down by Kevin Brown and the Padres in the NLDS.
  • For most of the “Oughts”, two players were Must See for the Astros. Lance Berkman had a Jeff Bagwell bat with the ability to continue that production in the playoffs. On the pitching mound, Roy Oswalt was the one to watch as he shined from his first call up. They led them to their first playoff success and their first World Series appearance.
  • The first part of the “Teens” was dominated by either Can’t See TV or Don’t Want to Watch TV. The Astros were totally torn down to become the worse team in baseball while also being undermined by local TV contract negotiations that kept them off of many TV sets back then and even some to this very day.
  • Let’s face it the Astros between 2015 and 2019 were Must See TV as a team as they were one of the best teams in baseball during this time. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, and Carlos Correa were part of a core that was so much fun to watch every day. Between 2017 and 2019, first Justin Verlander and then Justin and Gerrit Cole were pitchers who were bringing Cy Young caliber outings almost every time to the mound.
  • In the second half of 2019, if you had a pulse as a baseball fan, you had to watch the at-bats of wunderkind Yordan Alvarez. His combination of awesome power and the ability to make contact made every at bat Must See TV.
  • 2020 was a tougher season to watch as the team stumbled around, but when Kyle Tucker finally found his footing, it was a blast to watch him to see if he would steal another base or whack a gapper and leg out a triple or put one over the fence.

So…..here are the questions for you.

  • Over the years, who has been must-see TV for you with the Astros?
  • Who will be Must See TV for you in 2021?
  • Looking into the future, is there anyone coming up that you think will be on your must-see list in years to come?

32 comments on “Astros’ must-see TV through the years

  1. Very well scripted, Dan!

    I can tell you for my wife, Must-See was Bill Spiers. I was just glad she wasn’t around when Bill Doran played. When Spiers came up to hit, she used to imitate Ted Knight in Caddyshack, just to get under my goat — “Billy Billy, Billy oh please this is a big one.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Must see TV for me was Bagwell. I mean, the stance. The stance. Never have seen anyone go to the plate and hit like that from a stance like that.
    Think back and picture him at the plate and then think about that ball going 28 rows deep in a ballpark that was so huge.
    There has never been a batter like that, ever. Except him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bags had just the oddest stance – It was bizarre that he could generate any power when he basically stepped backwards rather than into the game, but he did have those Popeye arms

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    • And yet it was Bagwell himself who coined the phrase, “Must-See TV” about

      Yordan Alvarez.

      Kalas was calling him, ManChild.
      I was calling him, Da Crusher (from Bugs Bunny).

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  3. This article was timely for me because I recently lamented how All Access seems to be denied of the Astros compared to teams like the Atlanta Braves, who were live streaming their batting practice yesterday. [Boy, it would be nice to see Yordan swing, even if it’s indoors!]

    I chat with guys who follow minor leagues, and their fans (Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, etc.) seem to be so much more “into their teams,” even when they have No Shot. Reminds me of our fans in 2014 following JJ Cooper or Keith Law’s Astros prospects, which would generate 100’s of in-depth comments, gung-ho for the rebuild to show some fruit. It seems like our fans now have come to expect the eventuality of a playoff run, and want to hasten the day.

    Chip (and most of you) have some great stories about how we had to tune in by radio. Or having to look at box scores by getting the newspaper, just to know what was going on. That Game of the Week comment was brilliant, Dan.

    Nowadays there’s such a hunger and thirst for what makes up the specifics of a .280 batting average. Not only the; launch angles, ground ball vs fly ball, hard hit%, but many of these services like Driveline Baseball are showing instant readouts of bat speed and locations of error within the swing. The computers are showing pitchers the hitter weak spots that the eye couldn’t catch. That was the genius of managers & players of the Past. They could see things and instantly assess better than others.

    That’s what drives me in prospecting, and causes me to want more. Not realizing how good we have it, compared to yesteryear.

    Today, my Must-See for other squads is Fernando Tatis, where some of these guys that in the past going to the Dome — I marvelled at Mike Schmidt, Greg Luzinski and Dale Murphy. Bert Blylevin and Al Roboski.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Stuff….
    – I read everything in the Chronicle I could about the Astros in the old days. Back in those days if I remember right, the Chronicle and the Post were both morning papers. If the previous game was West Coast you did not get the box score or the writeup, though often they would have it the next day.
    – Sundays they would have the Astros team stats for the week, though very minimal vs. today’s.
    – I think they would have a league leaders box – can’t remember if it was daily or weekly , with the top 10 leaders in BA or wins or whatever. It was a thrill to see an Astro in a category or two – since we were rarely good.
    – In the 1980’s in Arkansas, a friend of mine at Arkansas Power and Light would run a primitive version of fantasy baseball that I would play. There was no private access to the Internet in those days. He would drive someplace weekly to get a copy of the Sporting News to be able to do weekly updates of our competition. You had to watch box scores daily to watch your player’s progress and there was a lot of “he missed the last three games – what is going on” or “they skipped a start with him”.
    – Marichal was a terrific pitcher. I remember how he had the biggest sky high leg kick around. Like they said his pitching arm was reaching for the ground he was so inverted. But then he would do that Luis Tiant-ish turn your back on the batter semi-sidearm delivery. Fun guy to watch if he wasn’t pitching against your team.
    – Yeah Black Jack McDowell was one of the few back when the scandal broke who told it like it is. But it didn’t keep LaRussa from getting another job did it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can name some other few, Dan.
      David Samson ex-President of Marlins was vocal on podcast. Go back and listen, he spelled it out. The DJ comedian in Boston, forget his name gave blistering satire. Most people I know in BOS, they never had a problem with it – go figure. It was NYY and JOMBOY who had nothing better to do in their parent’s basement that fueled it.

      On the White Sox, Keuchel said clearly (along with Musgrove) that their own signs were getting stolen in early starts in 2017. Unequivocally, then and so you have Bregman Cora Beltran and **McCann as a guy who has to keep algorythms handy himself — all “masters” of the trade. I can remember everyone laughing when Beltran would get on 2B in 2017, and the pitcher catcher immediately conferred. Classic baseball, which we all celebrated was eventually turned into cheating rotten worse than villainous rhetoric.

      Add to it, Farquar STOPPED the game because he could hear banging (iirc 4 days after the memo), and after being asked many months later, Owner Hahn said, he “preferred to handle it more professionally,” in effect. Meaning, nobody wanted this to get leaked out, because it was the egregiousness that puiblicly “outed It” which made the gambling operation get sued. The players were mad at Fiers for ratting, but mad at Astros for MOCKINGLY SO LOUDLY using it as a defense, some might say. Heck, if you’re getting JUMPED and doing nothing about it, then you are lazy (like 10 other teams). But many ex-pros said they knew at least 20 teams that had active sign stealing and communicating. We had 3 former yankees who knew EVERYTHING including Espada.

      For them to all stay silent, it just shows that MLB wants to get over it, everyone just abide by The Report, and after a few years of constant badgering by announcers in every sport, it will fade somewhat.

      For me, is it really “cowering to the masses of cancel culture” by suggesting a new name and logo for the Astros? Heck, they do it almost annually at some minor league teams! Food for thought. I would say Astronauts and Nauts for short. But they’d say You’re Naut the Champions. It would be a lousy lay up we gave them, and we’d lose again every time in the memes of modern-day court of opinion.

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    • The Post was a morning edition and the (SPIT) was originally an afternoon edition and went to a morning and afternoon edition to fight the Post. Of course, they eventually won.

      The (SPIT) had the “top ten” on Sundays and they did not have the west coast finals in the mornings or, in the case of the Post, until the next day.

      I lived to read about sports…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting about reading the newspaper to “get the news.” Recently I was talking to a young man in college. He was explaining why I needed twitter, instagram, something else, and something else. I asked him why. He responded that you can get the news on twitter 15 seconds faster than CNN.

    I explained he was talking to a guy that used to walk up the road to the highway each morning to get the Beaumont Enterprise so we could read the baseball scores. Anything that went past 10 PM was posted in the Beaumont Journal in the evenings. So 15 seconds doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – either way. (PS: the farthest West was St. Louis at that time)

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    • Can you recall the things you were thinking as you walked along?

      For me it was always the destination. If I was walking to the store, I was the whole time thinking about the powder on the flattened gum, and which baseball players were going to be on the cards. That was Bellflower, Mo. circa 1975, population 156.

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      • Bellflower, Mo reached a peak of 427 people in the 2000 census and bopped back to 393 in the 2010 census.
        Heartland of America….

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      • Dan,
        Back then Must-See TV for me was Jim Hart and Terry Metcalf. I could only see it on Monday Night Football halftime highights with Howard Cosell. Still, some the greatest sports memories of the 70’s for me.

        I was a Cardinals fan through and through for a few years, til I moved to Pittsburgh.

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  6. Here’s an example of a young man in the Braves org, who should start in AAA this year, Chris Nunn. He lives in Nashville, and went to college at my alma mater, where he’s able to workout.

    As you can see here, it reads out the Speed, Spin Rate and Spin Efficiency percentage of each pitch. He can send that back to the organization, and they give him feedback remotely.

    That’s quite a difference for someone like Cy Sneed who had to drive from Alaska to Florida to really show ’em what he’s got. I’ll just bet he catches on up Northwest.

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  7. We play the wretched A’s first 4 games. Of course Mike Fiers would never face us, but they will probably start with Lefty Montas. If so, we’ll configure the regular “Maldy Lineup.” This brings up an interesting question.

    Do you bat Straw #9 and risk Maldonado being on base in front of him, slowing him down? Instead, here’s my OD Lineup:

    1. Alex Bregman
    2. Jose Altuve
    3. Carlos Correa
    4. Yordan Alvarez
    5. Yuli Gurriel
    6. Mike Brantley
    7. Kyle Tucker
    8. Myles Straw
    9. Martin Maldonado

    What do you all think? I think currently MM can advance runners better than Straw, as well.

    A quote from Dusty recently said, “some guys don’t like to lead off…” I think he meant Altuve, because I cannot think who else would be that person.

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  8. Must-see TV for me in starting in the late 70’s was whenever we played (and beat) the Dodgers. I think J.R. Richard won something like 13 games in a row against them.

    Especially enjoyable was a 4-game sweep on June 1 – June 4, 1989. I don’t recall seeing the Thursday or Friday games, but I definitely watched every inning of the 22 inning Saturday game and 13 inning Sunday game. Found a video clip here:

    Like

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